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ANGLING ON LITTLE PIGEON RIVER, 
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS 
NATIONAL PARK, 1953 



Marine Biological Laboratory 

LIBRA 

MAY 2 4 1954 
WOODS HOLE, MASS. 




SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC REPORT- FISHERIES No.121 




UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR 
FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 



Explanatory Note 

The series embodies results of investigations, usually of 
restricted scope, intended to aid or direct management or utilization 
practices and as nuides for administrative or legislative action. It 
is issued in limited quantities for the official use of Federal, State 
or cooperating Agencies and in processed form for economy and to avoid 
delay in publication. 



57801 



United States Department of the Interior s Douglas McKay, Secretary,, 
Fish and Wildlife Servicej John L. Farley, Director 



ANGLING ON LITTLE PIGEON RIVER, GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS 
NATIONAL PARK, 1953 



By Robert E. Lennon 
Fishery Biologist 



Special Scientific "Report: Fisheries No. x21 



Washington, D e C. 
April, l?Sh 



CONTENTS 

Page 

Little Pigeon River watershed .* U 

Methods 6 

Fish and fishing returns 6 

Fishing efforts and success of resident and nonresident anglers... 13 
Distribution of fish and fishing pressure on the Little Pigeon 

watershed 13 

Survey of opinion among fishermen 22 

Conclusions 25 

Literature cited 27 



/LNGLING ON LITTLE PIGEON RIVER, GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS 
NATIONAL PARK, 19 53 



The growing importance of trout fishing in the Great S'noky Mountains 
National Park has made it necessary for the National Park Service to main- 
tain constant appraisal of the quantity and quality of fishing in streams 
under its jurisdiction. The Fish and Wildlife Service has been called 
upon t o conduct a thorough investigation of the fishery resources of the 
Park and to make recommendations for their management. The investigation 
has been in progress for 1 year, and this creel census oroject on the Little 
Pigeon River was undertaken as a necessary part of the research program. 

There is no previous record of creel-survey work on the Little Pigeon 
River watershed, although measurements of productivity have been made on 
other Park streams by previous observers. King and Currier (1°50) reported 
on angling returns from Little River in 1950, the first such study in the 
Park since 19^0 (King 19U2) . The last general survey of the Park fishery 
was performed by Smith (19U7) . Since that time there have been a number of 
changes in the fishing situation: regulations pertaining to angling have 
been altered; fishing pressure has undoubtedly increased; shifts in fish 
species densities and distribution have occurred owing to natural and man- 
made factors. 

The Little Pigeon River was chosen for a creel census because the main- 
stream and its tributaries (table 1) have a history of good fishing and they 
have long been subjected to a heavy fishing pressure. The watershed con- 
tains about 20 miles of fishable waters, both large and small, each with its 
individual potentialities. The largest tributary, Porters Creek, suffered 
severe flood damage in September 1951, and it was generally assumed that its 
fish population was destroyed; hence it was a matter of interest and impor- 
tance to determine the recovery of this stream in t erms of angling results. 
Parts of the drainage are planted with legal-size brook and rainbow trout 
each year, and the contribution these fish make to the creel could be esti- 
mated and compared with the yields of wild trout from the same and adjacent 
waters. Finally, some of the best waters in the Little Pigeon area are 
available only to those fishermen who are willing to walk considerable dis- 
tances, thereby making possible an analysis of the distribution of fishing 
pressure in terms of stream accessibility. 

The creel-checking station consisted of a small shelter and appro- 
priate sign. It was located at the junction of the Porters Creek and 
Middle Prong truck roads at Greenbrier Cove , close to the mouth of 
Porters Creek and the Greenbrier Ranger Station (fig. 1) . This point is 
about 3 miles from the Park boundary line where the truck road meets 
Tennessee Highway 73. Whereas it would appear desirable to have established 
the creel station at or near the Park boundary, no entirely suitable sites 
were available. Further, a boundary site would have been too distant from 
the campground, 2 miles upstream, to ensure complete daily reports from the 



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LITTLE PIGEON RIVER WATERSHED 



Gotlinbu 




Mt. , 
Guyot x 
(6,621)' 



Mt. Le Conte 

x 

(6,593) 



N.C. 



Sevier County ^.-* 

Tenn r '-^""' GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS 
\ NATIONAL PARK 



Scale : t 



Miles 



Figure 1. — Location of the Little Pipeon River creel census 

station and the prinoipal streams of the watershed 
from which creel data was obtained durin- the 1953 
fishing season. 



Legend 



Streams o pen to fishing 



1. lower seotion, Little Pigeon R. 

2. Middle Prong 

3. Ramsey Prong 

4. Injun Creek 

5. Porters Creek 

6 . Cannon Creek 

7. False Gap Prong 



8. L^wes Creek 

9. Long Branoh 

10. Boulevard Prong 

Stre ams closed to fishing 

11. upper Middle Prong 

12. Buok Fork 

13. Chapman Prong 

14. Eagle Rocks Branoh 



many angler-campers. The site chosen offered the most advantages; parking 
space was available; the campground was less than 1 mile away; the confluence 
of Porters Creek and the Middle Prong within a few yards of the checking sta- 
tion represented the downstream limits of most anglers' efforts; and prox- 
imity to the Ranger Station made it possible for the warden to assist us in 
many ways. 

The checking station was manned by John A. Fowler, temporary Fishery 
Aid, Fish and Wildlife Service, who has had long experience in the Park and 
in meeting the public in his job as a seasonal fire guard for the National 
Park Service. Mr. Fowler was thoroughly interested in the creel census, and 
he contributed much extra time and effort to secure the greatest possible 
amount of creel data. 

There were some disadvantages encountered in the creel survey and in 
the location of the station. No means were employed to ensure cooperation 
on the part of the fishermen; the reporting of catches was voluntary. Some 
anglers who fished in the lower 3 miles of the main stream and in Injun Creek 
escaped contact and left the Park without registering their catches. Some 
individuals drove by the checking post, in spite of its advertised and well- 
marked position; others fished past the station and did not return. Most of 
the fishermen, however, were entirely cooperative. 

It was unfortunate that we were unable to operate the station each day 
of the open season. Mr. Fowler was responsible for UO hours of duty per 
week, with duty days scattered to adequately sample each week and weekend 
day. His working day was from 9 to 5, but he usually chose to exceed this 
by remaining on duty until 7 in order to contact more anglers. Additional 
records from fishermen were obtained on Mr. Fowler's off-duty days by Dis~ 
trict Warden El Ogle and by the writer. In spite of the disadvantages 
mentioned, Mr. Fowler and Mr. Ogle have very carefully estimated that the 
returns received represent two-thirds of the actual number of trout removed 
from the Little Pigeon River watershed during the 193>3 season. 



The Little Pigeon River Watershed 

The Little Pigeon River and its tributaries drain one of the larger 
watersheds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The drainage area 
contains about 5>0 miles of trout water and lies on the northeast side of the 
Park, in Tennessee. Its streams originate at elevations up to 5,000 feet 
or more on the steep slopes of a high ridge running eastward from Mount Le 
Conte (6,593 feet) to Mount Guyot (6,621 feet) and fall sharply to the 
valley floor. The Little Pigeon flows about 8.5 miles, with an average 
gradient of U70 feet per mile, and leaves the Park at an elevation of 1,1+00 
feet. 

Splendid virgin forests of mixed softwoods and hardwoods stand on 
much of the headwater portions of the area. Old mountain farms at lower 
elevations have now reverted to forest in the 23 or 2\\ years since the 



National Park Service acquired the properties. Access to the greater part 
of the area is limited to foot travel ; private motor vehicles are restricted 
to the one road, h miles long which connects Greenbrier Cove with Tennessee 
Route 73 at the Park boundary line. 

The waters of the Little Pigeon and its tributaries are rapid and shal- 
low, cool, clear, and colorless. The stream beds are composed mostly of 
boulders and rubble. Pools are grade A, but riffles and bottom food rate 
about grade B. The streams are not easy to fish; the steep gradients, the 
rough bottoms, and the dense streamside vegetation makes angling a rather 
difficult sport. 

King (1937) reported that native brook trout once thrived in this water- 
shed as low as Greenbrier, at an elevation of 1,600 feet. He thought that 
heavy fishing pressure and the introduction of rainbow trout were important 
factors in the subsequent decline of brook trout in all but remote headwaters, 
Fire and flood also affected the distribution of brook trout in a part of 
the drainage area. In September 1925, a severe fire swept through the vir- 
gin forests on the headwaters of Porters Creek. Local residents informed 
King that, brook trout were present in the headwaters before the fire, but 
he reported the upper stream was barren in 1937. Indeed, District Warden 
El Ogle states that Porters Creek, upstream from the mouth of Boulevard 
Prong has remained fishless to date. Fire ash and sliding earth brought 
down by subsequent flood were thought to be the responsible agents in 
killing the trout. Porters Creek and its tributaries w^re ravaged by an 
unusually severe flash flood in 19S>1. Members of the Park staff have 
remarked that the flood resembled a tidal wave of black, foul-smelling 
water, and it its wake many dead trout were found. 

Fishes knoxm to be present in the Little Pigeon River watershed 
include the eastern brook trout ( Salvelinus fontinalis ), rainbow trout 
( Sal mo gairdneri) , Hog sucker ( Kypentelium nigricans ) , blacknose dace 
( Rhinichthys atratulus obtusus ) , longnose dace ( Rhinichthys catarsctae) , 
stoneroller ( Campostoma anomalum ) warpaint shiner ( Notropis coccogenis ) , 
greenside darter ( Etheostoma blennioides) rock bass ( Atnbloplites r . 
rupestris ), smallmouth bass ( Micropterus d. dolomieui ) , banded sculpin 
(C ottus carolinae ) . Other species may be oresent, but they have not been 
observed to date. The rainbow trout is the only game fish species widely 
distributed throughout the watershed. Trout have been stocked annually in 
t>iese waters for many years; in 1953 there were 875, 7-inch to 12-inch 
rainbow trout distributed in the lower Little Pigeon and 875 brook trout 
of the same size in the lower section of Porters Creek. 

The 1953 fishing regulations for the Park permitted angling for 
brook and rainbow trout and smallmouth bass in all except designated 
closed waters between sunrise and sunset each day from May 16 to 
August 31. Lures wif-i more than one hook were prohibited. The use of 
natural bait was allowed, except minnows, dead or alive. Two changes 
were made in the regulations before the opening of the season: the mini- 
mum size restriction of 7 inches was restored, and the daily possession 
limit was reduced from 10 to 7 fish per person. 



Methods 

The establishment of the checking station on the Little Pigeon River 
area was publicized by the staff of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 
All anglers in t he district were urged to present their catches at the sta- 
tion where such information as we desired could be obtained and recorded. 
The standard Fish and Wildlife Service Creel Census Report form was used, 
and a separate record was made on each fisherman. The fish caught were 
sorted by species, weighed, and measured to the nearest inch. An attempt 
was made to segregate the planted brook and rainbow trout from the wild fish 
even though the stocked specimens were not marked in any way. The hatchery 
brook trout were at first distinguishable by their color and siz3| the rain- 
bow trout proved to be more difficult to sort into wild and planted groups 
and efforts to do so were soon dropped. 

The home county or State of the fisherman, the hours spent on the 
stream, and the type of lure used in fishing were also noted. When time 
permitted, the comments of each person w ere solicited and recorded with 
respect to his preferences for general lures or artificial-lures-only 
regulations. In addition, daily entries were made on those anglers who 
caught no fish. 



Fish and Fishing Returns 

A total of 3,UU3 legal trout were removed from the streams of the 
Little Pigeon River watershed by anglers who spent 1,200 fishing days during 
the 1953 season (table 2). The catch per fisherman day was 2.9 trout, 7 or 
more inches in length. King and Currier (1950) reported an average catch of 
U.9 trout per fisherman day in Little River in 1950. At the time, there 
were no size restrictions in effect on this well-known Park stream, and 52 
percent of the total catch approximated only 6 inches in length. 

Averages and other expressions based on the total number of fishermen 
are misleading since many anglers catch no trout. Of the 1,200 individual 
fishing trips recorded, 57 percent resulted in a catch of fish, and k3 per- 
cent resulted in none at all. The average creel per successful fisherman 
was 5.0 trout, or 71 percent of the legal limit of 7 fish. The average 
catch per successful angler on Little River during 195>0 was 7.3 trout, or 
73 percent of the possession limit of 10 trout. 

It was to be expected that a relatively large percentage of che data 
on fish and fishing pressure would be accumulated during the early part of 
the open season. The records were tabulated by half -month periods (table 
2) and show that 37 percent of the season's successful trips and 36 percent 
of the season's total catch were registered during the first half -month 
of the l5-week season. By the end of the first full month of the fishing 
season, 55 percent of the total successful trips and 5U percent of the total 



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catch for the 1953 season had been reported. Thereafter, for the remaining 
11 weeks, fishing pressure and creel totals declined, but the average catch 
per successful fisherman continued to be 5 trout. 

There are two reasons which explain the good angling reported in the 
first half -month when 70 percent of the large number of fishermen caught 
trout . Hatchery fish were common and easy to catch; wild trout were hungry 
and relatively unwary. The planted fish were largely removed during this 
period, as indicated by returns on the stocked brook trout. It was assumed, 
after careful examination of each specimen, that very few of the brook trout 
reported during the entire season were wild fish. An estimated 98 percent 
of the 568 brook trout taillied were stocked in the stream before the open- 
ing of the season. Of these, 535 specimens (96 percent) were creeled in the 
first half-month. Investigators have reported that stocked rainbow trout 
are less rapidly exploited than brook trout. However, observations on the 
catches presented at the checking station indicate that most of the hatchery 
rainbows were removed from the stream wihin the first full month of the open 
season. 

The wild rainbow trout became increasingly wary and difficult to catch 

as the season progressed. After the first month the average creel of all 

fishermen declined from 3 or more fish to less than 3 per day, and slightly 
less than half (1*5 percent of the anglers then achieved success. 

The quality of trout fishing in the Little Pigeon River watershed can 
best be expressed for comparative purposes in terms of catch per fisherman 
hour. The average catch per hour for the successful fisherman was l.U 
trout. The mean catch per hour for all anglers on the Little Pigeon was 
0.8 legal fish, a figure which compares favorably with the average of 0.78 
fish caught per hour on the intensively managed and heavily stocked Pisgah 
Preserve in North Carolina in 1952 (Ratledge 1952) . A fisherman day on t he 
Little Pigeon averaged 3.6 hours in duration and earned 2,9 fish^ whereas 
the average angler on the Pisgah Preserve spent 1*.6 hours and caught 3-6 
fish in 1952. The mean catch of trout per hour on two managed trout streams 
in Michigan in 1951 were Rifle River area 0.17; and on the Hunt Creek area 
0.1*0 trout (Michigan Dept. of Conservation, Biennial Report, 1952). 

The size distribution of rainbow trout and brook trout over the mini- 
mum 7-inch size whichwere caught in the Little Pigeon area is shown in 
table 3. The largest single percentage (38. ii percent) of rainbow trout 
fell in the 7-inch group, owing to the relatively small size of the wild 
fish. The largest single percentage (1*9.6 percent) of brook trout was 
in the 9-inch group. 

The average size of all rainbow trout was 8.3 inches; the average 
size of wild specimens was about 8.0 inches. The mean length of brock 
trout captured was 9-1 inches, owing to the predominance of stocked fish. 
The mean weight of all trout caught was 3.6 ounces, and the total weight 
of 5 fish creeled by the average successful angler was 18 ounces (table U) « 



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Of the 2,875 rainbow trout registered at the creel checking station, 
llj percent exceeded 10 inches in length. Two specimens were 15.5 inches 
long, and these with 7 other fish over lit inches were through to be wild 
fish, although there is a possibility that these included some carry-over 
fish from previous plantings in the river. 

An unknown fraction of the 2,875 rainbows caught was contributed by 
the 875 unmarked fish planted in the lower 3 miles of the Little Pigeon 
River 1 month before the season opened. A recovery of 67 percent of marked 
rainbow and brook t rout (King 19U2) and a return of 6l percent of marked 
brook trout (King and Currier 1950) have been reported in t he Park on Little 
River. These returns of hatchery reared fish were considered not unusual 
for Southern Appalachian streams. If we assume that 65 percent of the rain- 
bows planted in the Little Pigeon in 1953 were recovered, it follows that at 
least 80 percent of the 2,875 rainbows registered during the season were 
resident fish. 

Heavy fishing pressures were exerted and good catches of rainbow trout 
were made on the Middle Prong and in Porters Creek, neither of which was 
stocked with this species. There were uli8 rainbows captured per mile of 
fishable water in the Mddle Prong and 229 per mile in Porters Creek. The 
average number of trout creeled per mile of fishable water in the entire 
Little Pigeon watershed was 169, whereas Little River produced a catch 
of 1,010 trout per mile in 1950, at which time no minimum size restrictions 
were in effect (King and Currier 1950) . 

On April 17, 1953, 875 brook trout were stocked in Porters Creek, 
the largest tributary of the Little Pigeon in the Greenbrier area. A 
number of them moved into connecting waters; some went into False Gap 
Prong, others moved into the Middle Prong and the lower section of the 
main stream. Some may have gone downstream beyond the Park boundary. 
These stocked fish made a very temporary contribution to t he quality 
of fishing; most of them were caught or had disappeared within a short 
time after the season opened. It is interesting to note that 688 rain- 
bow trout were caught in Porters Creek, as compared with [J.7 stocked 
brook trout. 

The 568 brook trout caught during the 1953 season included 30 per- 
cent which were 10 inches or more in length. None were over 13 inches 
long. It is estimated that not more than 2 percent of the brook trout 
captured were wild fish; the remainder were hatchery-reared, and their 
survival to the creel was about 6Ii percent of the number planted. Post- 
season population surveys at 11 sites have demonstrated the scarcity of 
brook trout in the waters open to angling; no survivors of the stocked 
trout were recovered; and no wild fish, either fingerling or adults were 
taken. 



11 



Fishing Efforts and Success of Resident and Nonresident Anglers 

A great deal of concern is continually expressed in the vicinity of the 
Great Smoky Mountains National Park about maintaining good fishing quality 
for the benefit of the tourist angler. Under existing circumstances, the 
nonlocal fisherman catches very few fish (table 5). The stocked trout are 
largely removed by resident anglers before the tourist season commences. 
In fact, the creel-census records show that throughout the summer few but 
the local fishermen have sufficient proficiency to c atch the very wary wild 
fish. 

Nonresident anglers did make a considerable effort to catch trout in 
the little Pigeon during 1953l 2$0 (21 percent) of the 1,200 fishermen 
recorded at the checking station were out-of -State persons. Their total 
catch was U3 trout, or a mere 1.25 percent of the total 3,14i3 fish regis- 
tered. The few successful anglers among them caught 1.2 fish per hour of 
angling effort (table 6) . 

Of the tourist fishermen interviewed, a majority of fish strictly for 
sport, not for the pan. They wanted to see fish and to catch fish, but 
possession was of minor consequence since few had facilities to store or 
cook fish. Many expressed keen disappointment over the fishing. They ques- 
tioned the practice of fish stocking in a National Parkj and they found 
fault with the State-license requirements on Federally controlled waters, 
especially since the high fee charged by the State of North Carolina dis- 
couraged a day or two of casual fishing on that side of the Park. 

Unfortunately not all nonresident fi shermen w ere identified by their 
home states. Most of them caught no fish, and at first only this fact 
plus the hours spent on the stream and their nonresident status were noted. 
Later they were listed according to their home State, Fourteen States 
were represented in °U of the total 2^0 nonresident fisherman-days. 

Residents of Tennessee, of whom 90 percent were from Sevier and 
Cocke Counties, logged 9$0 fishing trips, or 79 percent of the total. They 
caught 3,h00 trout, which amounted to 9&.75 percent of the total number of 
fish reported. The successful residents averaged l.k fish per hour of 
effort. 



Distribution of Fish and Fishing Pressure on the 
Little Pigeon Watershed 

Fishing pressure on the Little Pigeon was not uniformly distributed 
because of the lack of easy access to certain waters. Anglers reported the 
locations of their efforts to the creel census clerk, and it was therefore 
possible to compute the season total of fishermen per mile on various sec- 
tions of the streams. 



12 



Table 5. — The residence and creel returns of anglers on the Little 
Pigeon River watershed in 1953. 



State 



Number of 
fishermen 



Number of 
trout creeled 



Residents 



Tennessee 



Nonresidents 




3,u00 



Alabama 


13 





Florida 


20 


h 


Georgia 


8 


10 


Illinois 


16 


1U 


Kentucky 


6 


3 


Maryland 


3 





Massachusetts 


3 





Michigan 


2 





Mississippi 


2 





North Carolina 


2 


10 


Ohio 


10 





Oklahoma 


h 





Texas 


k 





Virginia 


1 


2 


Not identified by State 


156 





Nonresident totals 


250 


k3 


Grand total 


1,200 


3,iUv3 


Percentage 






residents 


79 


9&.75 


Nonresidents 


21 




1.25 



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14 



The unequal spread of fishing efforts was also indicated by the 
results of fish population estimates made on the streams following the 
close of the 1953 fishing season (table 7). As might be expected, fewer 
trout were found in the waters subjected to the heaviest angling loads. 

The population estimates were based on fishes collected with cresol 
(phenol coefficient 30) . Applications of this compound were made in suffi- 
cient strength to insure a maximum effect on the fishes within a test area. 
The test areas ranged from 75 to 300 yards in length, depending on the si?e 
of the stream and the amount of help available to insure a rapid pickup of 
fish before the anesthetizing effects of the cresol were dissipated. Usually 
a minnow seine was stretched across the stream at the downstream limit of a 
measured area to prevent the escape of fish. All species were enumerated, 
and game fishes were measured as well; estimates of the residual fish popu- 
lations per acre, or per mile of water were formulated from the figures 
obtained. These estimates must be considered as conservative; in spite of 
our every precaution, some fish within the test areas were perhaps unaffected 
by the cresol, and others, although affected, may have been missed during the 
pickup. 

The lower section of the Little Pigeon River, extending from the con- 
fluence of the Middle Prong and Porters Creek to the Park boundary, was 
easily reached from the adjacent truck road and it was fished heavily 
throughout its 3-mile length in the Park. As stated previously, returns 
from this piece of water were fractional since the anglers did not have to 
pass the creel checking station before leaving the Park. The records show 
that there were 66 anglers, and 122 trout caught per mile, on this water 
during the season (table 1). On October 27, 1953, a survey was made on 100 
yards of stream at a point one-half mile upstream from the Park boundary 
line. Numerous minnows of 5 species and one darter were captured, but no 
bass or trout were taken or observed (table 7) . Another survey was made 
on 100 yards of stream at a point 1.9 miles upstream from the boundary on 
October 28. A total of II46 fish were netted, which included 5 species of 
minnows and one muddler soecies. Again no trout or bass were taken. The 
application of cresol in this instance remained in effective concentration 
for 25 to 30 yards downstream past the check net. Pools and riffles in 
the test areas were grade A in number and quantity. These results by no 
means prove that trout are completely lacking in the lower Little Pigeon, 
but they do show that stocked or wild rainbows and brook trout are scarce. 
The failure to capture any fingerling trout denotes a scarcity of spawning 
fish. This section of stream has been stocked annually with legal-size 
rainbow trout, but the effects of these plantings are not apparent in the 
population surveys. 

The Middle Q rong of the Little Pigeon offered 3 miles of fishing 
water to hikers who approached the upstream waters by way of the adjacent 
but restricted truck road. No stocking h_s been done in this prong in 
recent years, but there were 156 anglers and u70 trout reported per mile 
for the season; we estimate that these figures represent about 80 percent 
of the actual totals for the Middle Prong = The heaviest fishing loads were 

15 



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16 



concentrated on the lower 2 miles of water, from the High Bridge on down- 
stream; the upper mile is very steep and rough, and fishing pressure on it 
was considerably less. Cresol was applied to 300 yards of water at Twin 
Bridges on September 1C, 1953, and 7k rainbow trout, ranging from 3.2 to 
10.6 inches long, were captured. The estimate of the residual trout popu- 
lation includes lil legal-size and 389 fingerling rainbows per mile of stream 
in this immediate vicinity. The great majority of trout in the sample were 
young of the year, ranging from 3.0 to U.9 inches in length. 

Another cresol survey was made on 75 yards of test water at a point one- 
half mile upstream from the previous site on November 5, 1953. The popula- 
tion in this steep and rough area just below the High Bridge was estimated 
at k7 legal size and 117 fingerling rainbow trout per mile. Several species 
of Cyprinidae were abundant at this and the Twin Bridge stations. 

The upper waters of the Middle Prong, above the mouth of Ramsey Prong, 
lie in the Wilderness Area and are closed to fishing. On September 10,1953, 
a population of ii93 legal size and 1,170 fingerling rainbow trout and 26 
fingerling brook trout per mile, was estimated from the results obtained 
in 250 yards of test water at a point one-half mile upstream of the Wilder- 
ness Area boundary line. Some illegal fishing does occur in the Area and 
one of the captured brook trout had a snelled ! ook imbedded in its esopha- 
gus. The rainbow trout ranged from 2.7 to 10.9 inches in length; 33 speci- 
mens were sexed, and the smallest mature male was U.2 inches long and the 
smallest maturing female was 3.9 inches. 

An excellent population of Appalachian brook trout was found in Eagle 
Rocks Branch above a series of barrier falls. This stream lies entirely 
in the Wilderness Area and is tributary to the Middle Prong. Brook trout 
from 5 to 9 inches long were easily captured on small flies, and a few 
individuals of about 10 inches in length w ere observed. 

Ramsey Prong is a large tributary of the Middle Prong and offers 
about 3.5 miles of fishable water which averages 20 feet in width. It is 
one of the more remote streams of the watershed which is open to fishing, 
and access to its lower reaches is achieved by a 3.5-mile walk on the 
Middle Prong truck road. There were 19 anglers and 100 legal trout 
recorded per mile during the 1953 season. 

A series of barrier falls, known as Ramsey Cascades, are about 2 
miles upstream from the mouth of the stream. Native brook trout are said 
to be common above the cascades, and rainbow trout occur below. Two sur- 
veys were made on the lower section of this stream and the results differed 
considerably. The first, a trial run in the use of cresol, was made on 
September 9, 1953, at a point one-third inile above the mouth. Rainbow 
trout were the only species taken or observed, and they were estimated to 
occur at 117 legals and 702 fingerlings per mile. The effective range of 
the cresol was conservatively listed as 75 yards. 



17 



The second test was made on a measured 75 yards of water at two-thirds 
mile above the mouth. The results of this survey indicated a rainbow trout 
population of hi legals and uU5 finger lings per mile. The fish ranged in 
size from 3.2 to 13.7 inches; the smallest mature male was 3.8 inches and 
th<_ smallest mature female was 8,7 inches long. This stream has not been 
stocked with trout in recent years; reproduction of the wild fish is ade- 
quate and fishing pressure is relatively light. 

Porters Creek is the largest tributary of the Little Pigeon River 
within the Park and joins the mainstream close to the place where the creel- 
checking station was located. It has about 3 miles of readily fishable water 
which averages 2\\ feet in width (Burrows 1935). There were Lu2 anglers 
and 368 trout reported per fishable mile during the 1953 season, a pressure 
and catch which approaches that recorded for the Middle Prong. Records were 
obtained from approximately 75 percent of the fishermen on this stream. 

On September 9, 1953, a trial run with cresol was made at a site 1.6 
miles above the mouth of Porters Creek. Partial effects were obtained in 
200 jrards of stream, and the estimate of the rainbow trout population was 
roughly 27 legal fish and 308 fingerlings per mile. A careful survey was 
made on October 28 at a point 0.3 mile upstream from the mouth. Cresol 
was applied in a measured 100-yard stretch of water, and the rainbow trout 
collected indicated a population of 18 legals and 106 sublegals per mile. 
Several species of forage fishes were numerous at this location. 

Another survey was made on the stream on October 31 about 2 miles up- 
stream from the mouth, at a site within the limits subjected to a heavy 
fishing load. The estimate obtained from the 100-yard test area included 
18 legals and 70 fingerling rainbow trout per mile. Longnose dace were the 
most numerous among the forage fish species. 

Adult brook trout were planted in Porters Creek by the National Park 
Service during the two spring seasons following the disastrous flood of 1951 
which largely destroyed the resident fish populations. It was hoped that 
the species would reestablish itself here in Its former range. The attempts 
failed because most of the trout were quickly removed by anglers, and the 
survivors, if any, failed to reproduce successfully. No brook trout, finger- 
lings oradults, were taken or observed during the population surveys. In 
spite of the brook trout stocking, wild rainbow trout contributed more than 
half the total catch in this stream during 1953 and afforded fair quality 
fishing throughout the season (table 3) . 

The cresol surveys were inadequate in number, and their results cannot 
stand alone as reliable indicators of the population densities of trout in 
the Little Pigeon watershed. However, the estimates are supported some- 
what by the recent history of fishing in the district, by the catch records 
obtained at the creel checking station, and by the results of cresol surveys 
made on other streams in the Park during the same period. 

18 



Wild female rainbow trout in the Little Pigeon mature on the average in 
their third year (King 19l2) . The smallest ripening female examined during 
the 1953 population studies was 8.7 inches long; mature males were frequently 
younger and of much smaller size. The combination of increased fishing pres- 
sure and the lack of minimum size restrictions during recent years has per- 
mitted progressively fewer maiden fish to reach sexual maturity. 

During the period 191$ through 1952, not only was each year class of 
rainbows exploited by fishermen in its second, third, and subsequent summers, 
but many of the larger fingerlings were taken in their first summer. Rangers 
and wardens in the Park have reported that creel limits of 10 Ii-inch to 5- 
inch rainbows were commonly checked in those years. The heavy drain of 
immature fish by anglers and the high over-winter mortality suffered by 
stream trout, which is reported to be between 60 and 80 percent of the pop- 
ulationsin some areas (Needham, Moffett and Slater 19U5; Allen 1952), tended 
to preclude any but a small number of mature trout in these recent years. 
In 1953, a 7-inch minimum size restriction on brook and rainbow trout was 
made a part of the Park fishing regulations to afford additional protection 
to young fish, yet a large percentage of the fish creeled on the Little 
Pigeon were immature. Of the 2,875 wild and stocked rainbow trout registered 
at the checking station, 65 percent were under 8.5 inches in length (table 3), 
and most of the females were unquestionably immature. If the stocked trout 
could have been excluded from this tabulation, the percentage of wild trout 
under 8.5 inches caught and recorded would be considerably greater. 

The data on the size distribution of 393 rainbows collected with cresol 
in the open and closed waters of the Little Pigeon were compared, and they 
show that U7 oercent of the 201 trout collected in closed waters and Ih. per- 
cent of the 192 rainbows captured in open waters were included in the 2„0- 
U. 9-inch size range (table 8). Rainbows of this size were mostly young 
of the year (fig. 2). Both groups of fish were subject to natural mortality 
and some poaching; the fish in the closed waters may have been reduced in 
numbers by some emigration downstream and out of the Wilderness Area; the 
trout in open waters were subjected to some hooking and handling losses 
since bait fishing was allowed and fishermen were permitted by regulations 
to retain as a part of their creel limit those sublegal fish which were 
badly injured in catching. The size group from 5.0 to 6.9 inches included 
21 percent of the Wildnerness Area fish and 15 percent of the open-witer 
fish; of these, most were in their second year of growth. Rainbows of this 
age in open waters were subjected to some harvest in their first summer 
(1952), when no size restrictions were in effect; additional losses to 
anglers occurred in their second summer (1953) because of the retention 
loophole in the new minimum size law; a part of the second-year fish reached 
legal size and were caught out. 



Fishing quality in the Little Pigeon watershed in 195U will continue 
to show the effects of the close cropping which took place on t he streams 
from 19U8 through 1952 when fishing regulations were liberal. The 1952 
year class of rainbows should consist entirely of legal size fish in 195k 



19 








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LENGTH (in inches) 



Figure 2. — The length distribution of rainbow trout captured during 
population studies on the Little Pigeon River watershed 
in September, October and November 1953. The solid line 
represents 392 of the 393 trout collected with cresol; the 
total includes 192 fish from open waters and 201 from closed 
waters. The broken line represents those 201 trout from the 
closed stream. 



21 



(their third summer), but it has been reduced in numbers by natural losses 
and captures by anglers during its first and second summers; it faces another 
fishing season before its average members reach sexual maturity and spawn. 
It is unlikely that the survivors will constitute an adequate parent stock. 

A comparison of the 1953 population figures with those listed by inves- 
tigators on other trout waters implies that the densities in the Little 
Pigeon watershed may be very low indeed. King and Currier (1950) made 
estimates of the residual populations of rainbows in Little River watershed, 
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, following the termination of their creel 
census. Cresol was employed, and the numbers of trout of all sizes captured 
indicated densities of 69O fish per mile in the most heavily fished portion 
of the main stream, 1,056 per mile in Fish Camp Prong, and 2,106 per mile 
in Three Forks Prong. The authors concluded that sufficient trout remained 
in the streams to afford good-quality fishing in the following season. Rela- 
tively good populations were found by us in Bradley Fork on November U,1953. 
This stream is about the size of Porters Creek and is open to angling. In 
an upstream section, which averaged 20 feet in width, there were an esti- 
mated 70 legal and $10 sublegal rainbows and 18 fingerling brook trout per 
mile. Another survey was made in the lower section where the stream averaged 
25 feet in width and the estimate included lhO legal and l,2li0 sublegal rain- 
bow trout per mile. The trout examined by us at these stations ranged from 
2.8 to 17. U inches in length. 

In spite of the appreciable differences in the postseason trout popu- 
lations in certain streams of the Park which were open to fishing, the few 
ratios available on fingerling and legal-size trout seem to show a consis- 
tency. In the open waters of the Little Pigeon area, 11.0 percent of the 
estimated population of rainbow trout were 7 inches or more in length., In 
Bradley Fork, a heavier concentration of this species was found, and again 
11.0 percent were legal size. In an upper section of Little River 12.5 per- 
cent of the rainbows collected with cresol in November 1953 were over 7 
inches long. In contrast, 32.0 percent of the specimens samples in the 
closed waters of the upper Little Pigeon River in the Wilderness Area were 
of legal size. It appears from these few data on rainbow trout in the Great 
Smoky Mountains National Parkthat angling may r educe the percentage of legal 
fish in a population by nearly two -thirds, but as a certain ratio of sub- 
legal to legal fish is approached the population as a whole declines and 
the ratio remains fairly constant. 



Survey of Opinion Among Fishermen 

For at least 10 years before 19U8, certain regulations governing the 
trout fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were in effect: 
Fishing season, May 16 to August 31 inclusive; minimum size, ranging from 
6 to 10 inches; possession limit, 10 trout per day; and lures, artificial^ 
with one hook only. Angling pressure was heavy, but fish stocks were in 



22 



fine shape and public pressure began to mount to have the Park Service ease 
the fishing regulations to permit a greater harvest. In 19U8, the minimum 
size restriction was dropped, and the use of natural bait, except minnows, 
was permitted. 

It is generally conceded that the relaxation of the fishing regulations 
in the Park was accompanied by a decline in fishing quality. Rangers and 
wardens reported that as most of the larger fish disappeared creel limits 
of li-inch to 6-inch trout became common; fishermen confessed that high mor- 
talities of small trout were occurring due to the use of tiny hooks (sizes 
ill to 18) baited with bits of bread, wasp larvae, caddis worms, or crickets. 
It was soon charged by some that the Park had lost the respect of the fish- 
ermen, that enforcement of regulations was inadequate in face of increasing 
violations, and that the streams were being stripped of trout of all sizes 
by the bait and bread fishermen. 

Staff members of the Park conducted a fisherman's opinion survey in 
19U9 • Anglers were contacted on the streams and asked to record their 
opinions on several questions dealing with the current fishing regula- 
tions. At that time 232 expressed themselves on the question of bait fish- 
ing versus artificial lures. Only 37 percent approved the retention of the 
bait fishing regulation; 63 percent of them recommended the restoration of 
the artificial-lures-only restriction. Co incident ally, 37 percent of the 
respondents disapproved a minimum-size restriction while 68 percent were in 
favor. 

The opinion of fishermen appears to be growing stronger on the matter 
of restoring the artificial-lures-only restriction. Whenever possible, the 
fishermen who recorded catches at the creel checking station on the Little 
Pigeon River in 1953 were asked to state their preference for lures; other- 
wise, the type of lure they used to catch their fish were determined from 
information on the creel register form. The statements of Ui7 respondents, 
all successful in catching fish were recorded (table 9). Those in favor 
of general fishing, including bait, numbered 26 percent, whereas those in 
favor of artificial lures numbered 7u percent. 

The proponents of general fishing argue that restricting fishing lures 
to artificial types discriminates against the nonresident fisherman. Such 
is not the case. Only a small number of nonresidents caught fish in the 
Little Pigeon this summer, yet information obtained from these persons 
showed them to be almost entirely in favor of artificial lures. My obser- 
vations and interviews with nonresident anglers indicate that few of them 
use bait in any form while fishing in Park streams. Opinion among nonlocal 
fishermen from Tennessee, that is, living in counties other than Sevier, 
Cocke, and Blount, was largely in favor of artificial-type lures. 

There were 237 successful anglers who were not questioned on bait 
preferences. Artificial lures were used by $1 percent of them, and some 
form of natural bait was employed by the other 1x9 percent. Most of these 

23 



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24 



anglers, however, reported their catches within the first few days after 
the season opened, a time when Mr. Fowler was too busy to do more than 
record catch data. It is presumed that natural bait was more commonly used 
at this time of the season because the water was high and stocked trout 
were common. 

A unique criticism was voiced by many of the local fishermen who were 
so apt in catching trout all season. They felt that fishing quality in the 
Little Pigeon has declined to a point where it takes too much time to obtain 
a limit catch. Each said, in effect, "There's plenty of fish left> but not 
like there was a few years ago. Then I could catch my limit in 30 minutes 
or an hour or so and get on home. Now it takes me an hour and one-half to 
three hours to do it and it isn't hardly worth it to waste such time for 7 
trout. I vote for a fly fishing law so the fish will com 1 - back like they 
were; then I can lay off a bit from chores now and then, ccme catch my limit 
in a few minutes and get on out of here." 

Many of the local fishermen are unusually skillful in using very small 
flies and tiny bait lures, yet at the same time the concepts of sport or 
recreation in trout fishing may be lacking in them. They want a catch of 
fish more than sport and with only a very small expenditure of time* Time 
and again this season, some would be in the Park less than one hour and 
leave with their limits of wild trout. On the other hand, the desire of the 
local anglers to see fishing conditions improve is very real. Their reaction 
to this creel census demonstrated a keen interest and a willingness to 
cooperate in matters concerned with the study, improvement, and conserva- 
tion of the fishery resource. 



Conclusions 



The streams of the Little Pigeon River watershed continued to provide 
fair quality trout fishing during the 1953 season. According to our creel 
census data, there were 59 anglers per mile of fishable water, 33 of whom 
were successful and caught 16 8 legal trout per mile at a rate of l»u fish 
per hour. These figures compare well with those reported for managed trout 
waters in other areas. 

A total of 1,200 fishermen reported at the creel checking stati 
and 3,Uu3 trout were tallied. The mean hourly catch rate for all anglers 
was 0.8 fish; the average creel was 2.9 trout and weighed 10 ounces. The 
station attendant estimated that our records include two-thirds of the 
actual numbers of fishermen and trout captured, that there were actually 
about 1,8C0 anglers on the watershed and about 5,000 trout caught during 
1953. 

Few large trout were taken in the Little Pigeon this season; two 15.5- 
inch rainbows were the largest registered by fishermen. A 13.7-inch male 

25 



rainbow was the best fish examined during the postseason population surveys 
on these waters.. 

Most of the stocked rainbow and brook trout were removed from the 
streams shortly after the season opened. The estimated recovery for both 
species was 65 and 6u percent respectively,, Wild rainbow trout provided 
the bulk of fishing throughout the summer, whereas wild brook trout made 
an insignificant contribution to the total catch. 

A very limited number of population surveys were made on fishable 
streams in the watershed during September, October,, and November, 1953. 
They disclosed that trout stocks of all sizes were low. There were fewer 
trout in the waters subjected to the heaviest fishing loads than in those 
more lightly fished. No survivors were found of the 875 hatchery-reared, 
legal rainbow trout which were stocked in the Little Pigeon River in April 
1953 1 not one specimen of the 875 brook trout planted in Porters Creek dur- 
ing the spring was taken or observed in 3 survey collections (anglers, 
however, harvested some of these planted fish). 

The 192 rainbow trout collected in the open waters included 11 per- 
cent which were of legal lengthy in contrast, the 201 rainbows taken with 
cresol in the closed waters of the Wilderness Area included 32 percent 
which were 7 or more inches long* The smallest mature female trout 
examined was 8.7 inches longj mature males were often younger and of 
smaller size. Only 5 percent of the fish from open waters were large 
enough to include mature females, as compared with 21 percent from the 
Wilderness Area. 

The combination of liberal fishing regulations in effect from 19h8 
through 1952 and a heavy fishing pressure has contributed to a lack of 
parent stock and a decline in trout numbers „ The population surveys 
showed less than 500 rainbow trout per mile in the Little Pigeon, Middle 
Prong, and Porters Creek. There were more trout per mile in Ramsey Prong 
where the angling pressure is less heavy. Results obtained in the Wilder- 
ness Area on the Middle Prong indicated about 1,600 rainbows per mile. 

The records obtained from 68U successful anglers indicated a 2 si 
preference for artificial lures over bait. Of the kkl fishermen specif - 
ical?uy questioned, 7U percent favored a change in the fishing regulations 
to allow only artificial lures on Park streams % 26 percent of the respon- 
dents were opposed to any change. 



26 



LITERATURE CITED 

Allen, K. Radway 

1952. A New Zealand trout stream. Some facts and figures. New 

Zealand Marine Department, Fisheries Bulletin No. 10A, 70 p. 

Burrows, Robert, Jr. 

1935. A biological survey of streams in the Great Smoky Mountains 
National Park. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of 
Fisheries, mimeo. April. 30 p. 

King, Willis 

19U2. Trout management studies at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 
Jour, of Wildl. Mgt. VI (2): pp. 1U7-161. 

King, Willis and Warren Currier 

1950. Angling returns from Little River, Great Smoky Mountains National 
Park, 19^0. Tennessee State Game and Fish Comm. mimeo., 7 p. 

Michigan Department of Conservation 

1952. Fish Division. l6th Biennial Report, 1951-1952. ppo 66-111. 

Needham, Paul R., James W. Moffett, and Daniel W. Slater 

19li5>. Fluctuations in wild brown trout populations in Convict Creek, 
Calif. Jour. Wildl. Mgt. vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 9-25. 

Rati edge, H. M. 

1952. Fish management investigations of trout streams. North Carolina 
Wildlife Resources Cortm. Quart. Prog. Rpt., Fish Division, II 
(2), pp. 19-35. 

Smith, Lloyd L., Jr. 

19U7 . Recommendations for management of Great Smoky Mountains National 
Park fishery. Biology Division, National Park Service, mimeo. 
33 p. 



Interior-duplicating section-Washington 

59699 



27 



5 WHSE 01652